DDN December 2022 DDN Dec_2022 | Page 20



On Friday 2 December Kaleidoscope observed ‘ Our Day for Remembering and Celebrating ’.

The purpose of the day was for us to remember those people in our service who have died – often , those people who die who have used drugs and alcohol are not considered ‘ worthy ’ in the eyes of society , and not entitled to the same amount of respect and sympathy shown to others .
The focus isn ’ t on people who have died from an overdose – International Overdose Awareness in August is the right moment to raise that issue more widely . Our day is a day to remember
The pervasive stigma around substance use makes it even more vital to commemorate those who ’ ve died , says Martin Blakebrough
and celebrate all those lives that get forgotten or excluded . People who experience drug or alcohol problems continue to be blamed for their issues – the healthcare and criminal justice systems can view drug and alcohol use as a result of ‘ moral weakness ’ or ‘ flawed character ’. This stigma is systemic and can lead to substandard care or rejection of requests for treatment . Attending a funeral is vital for both celebrating and remembering a person ’ s life . Sadly , because of the stigma around substance use , some families have excluded friends of their loved ones because of the fear of shame . For this community , not only is stigma present in life , it is also present in death .
Challenging stigma directed towards people who use drugs and alcohol is vital . People who use should be treated in the same way as everyone else with a health condition . They should receive support and help , not judgement . Problems with substance use are a health matter and should be treated as such . People need to experience humanity and dignity , not fear and stigma . Both in life and death .
The majority of people who take drugs do not die from overdose , and us linking remembrance with overdose could stigmatise people further . We know of people who have taken their own lives because the system has focussed on their drug use and not their mental health . We also know people whose health conditions get ignored and / or misdiagnosed , and that too can lead to early death . There are also those who die entirely of natural causes , but because of the stigma associated with their substance use , their friends may still not be allowed to their funeral .
This yearly observance will happen on the first Friday of every December . Staff , peers , volunteers and service users will observe this in their locations in different ways . Some will be planting trees in memory of those who have been lost , some will be writing memories on Christmas decorations , some will light candles . The focus is on reflecting , remembering and celebrating our memories of those people . It is vitally important that our community of people can remember their loved ones , friends and family . This is our day each year for ensuring that can happen .
Martin Blakebrough is CEO at Kaleidoscope izzzy71 / iStock

Tackling the silent addiction

Supporting people to share their stories will break down the stigma around gambling , hears DDN


project to share personal stories of people affected aims to improve understanding of gambling addiction , Claire Wyllie , research director at Tackling Gambling Stigma explained at the NHS APA conference . The initiative was to improve understanding among members of the public and professionals of the reality of living with gambling harms .
Gambling harms were often hidden , she explained , and the lack of physical symptoms could make it harder to see that people had a problem . The lack of understanding of gambling addiction could lead to stigma , with neither friends or professionals understanding the seriousness of the problem and why the person wasn ’ t able to ‘ just stop ’.
While there were no physical symptoms , there were also no limits to the amount you could lose . The sense of shame of people who had gambled large sums of money could be very isolating and lead to suicide . Lack of visibility and awareness had reduced the estimates of the harm being caused , and this lack of evidence limited the opportunities to make a case for more regulation , she said .
Furthermore , gambling ’ s position in society had shifted from being tolerated to being seen as an important contributor to economic growth . The gambling industry had been very effective at portraying it as harmless fun and marginalising people who developed a problem as being a small minority with a lack of selfcontrol . In reality , modern online gambling sites used an incredibly sophisticated system of algorithms and artificial intelligence , much of it learned from the gaming industry , to encourage people to spend more money . This had led to a £ 5bn increase in revenue over the last ten years .
More openness and honesty about the scale of the problem would help make the case for tighter regulation of how the industry operated and marketed itself . ‘ We need to normalise the conversation with healthcare professionals and include asking about gambling as part of Making every contact count [ a strategy by PHE , NHS England and Health Education England ],’ she said . Currently the majority of treatment options were outside the NHS and often funded via the gambling industry , and this needed to change .
By sharing stories and amplifying the voices of people with lived experience she hoped the initiative would help to break down the stigma around ‘ the silent addiction ’ and enable more people to get the help that they needed . DDN https :// tacklinggamblingstigma . com /